The neurobiology of itch

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2006 Jul;7(7):535-47. doi: 10.1038/nrn1950.


The neurobiology of itch, which is formally known as pruritus, and its interaction with pain have been illustrated by the complexity of specific mediators, itch-related neuronal pathways and the central processing of itch. Scratch-induced pain can abolish itch, and analgesic opioids can generate itch, which indicates an antagonistic interaction. However, recent data suggest that there is a broad overlap between pain- and itch-related peripheral mediators and/or receptors, and there are astonishingly similar mechanisms of neuronal sensitization in the PNS and the CNS. The antagonistic interaction between pain and itch is already exploited in pruritus therapy, and current research concentrates on the identification of common targets for future analgesic and antipruritic therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Management
  • Pruritus / classification
  • Pruritus / metabolism*
  • Pruritus / physiopathology*
  • Pruritus / therapy
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*